Casual French: L’Atelier de maison de campagne

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It had been a while since I left the apartment for more than a run, groceries, or class. I needed a break and novelty, and I needed it quick and nearby. So on a rainy Thursday morning, I decided to walk twenty minutes to a tiny shop I’ve passed on countless runs: L’Atelier de maison de campagne.

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With a main location in Nakameguro, Atelier is a cozy branch tucked away in residential Jiyugaoka. Perhaps because it’s a bit of a walk from the station, Atelier is pretty quiet, but interactions between the manager and customers make it seem anything but abandoned.

I immediately felt welcomed and had a precious moment alone to take in the downstairs before being ushered to the second floor cafe by a kind waitress/manager/chef. It can often get lonely lunching alone, but for the first time in a long while, she actually inquired where I’m from and seemed genuinely interested in me as a person. When I carefully deliberated between great-sounding lunch options, she advised me well.

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Armed with a magazine from a basket, I got comfy and dove straight in while waiting for lunch: Hanako cafe edition. I love these magazines, because it’s often difficult to find great little cafés without a recommendation of sorts. And since my friends aren’t the cafe-fiend that I am, they depend on me to uncover neighborhood treasures and make good recommendations.

My lunch arriving was a pleasant surprise. The shop keeper had presented me with a colorful palette of fresh vegetables and deli side dishes as accompaniment to the quiche dish I had actually ordered. It’s little things like this I am grateful for.

Lunch was delicious. The chicken and veggie quiche was creamy yet light. Carrot shavings in mustard sauce provided fresh company. Lentils, salad, and shaved pickled vegetables. The fresh vegetables were all perfectly cooked to tenderness with a tiny bite. Two small slices of cheddar bread warmly melted in my mouth. Nothing was overwhelming, yet I felt entirely full.

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As if lunch weren’t delicious and satisfying enough, out came the coffee with a cookie for company. Mmm, traces of peanut butter and perfectly grainy oatmeal texture. The coffee, though small in comparison, was rich and flavorful, perfected with a splash of milk. I took my time to savor it and returned to herb-infused water. I love it when cafes add flavor to the water.

I came for lunch and a quiet space to write. I left with a full belly, a calm mind, and a happy heart. I unintentionally got exactly what I wanted: connection. In a place with lots of entertainment but few opportunities to engage in conversation with perfect strangers, I have found my free time in Tokyo to be a bit lonely. Anxiety creeps up when I’m home for too long working on my thesis. I used to crave time on my own and now I have too much empty space and not enough lighthearted chatter to fill it. Yes, this cafe escape was exactly what I needed.

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